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Stock Downgrades: Titanic Troubles Ahead at Carnival Corporation

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Wall Street ratings agencies set the tone for today's stock market.

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One really wonders why David Hasselhoff, who has done just fine from capitalism, would try so hard to preserve a crumbling remnant of communism. Especially in a week that saw stocks enjoy such a record run. Dow Industrials (^DJI) rose for 10 straight sessions, something that last occurred in 1996. That was the year Motorola introduced its cutting edge StarTAC flip phone but that market now belongs to Apple (AAPL) - up 2.8% - and a suddenly resurgent BlackBerry (BBRY), which jumped 15%.

Shares snapped their win streak on Friday after a disappointing consumer confidence reading from the University of Michigan. (Given the beleaguered state of the state's Ally Financial, not to mention Detroit, its no wonder they are feeling a little low. You would too, especially after being mistaken for Ohio by Bruce Springsteen.)

Elsewhere Russia, not content with putting a dead man on trial, tapped Elvira, Mistress of the Dark to head its Central Bank. And an iconic violin from the Titanic was authenticated. Ah, 1912. A a distant century-old age when trouble lurked on the high seas. Happily, we've left all those issues long behind us.

The deteriorating situation in Cyprus is attracting the market's attention today, although there is no top-tier US economic data due and it's also quite quiet on the corporate earnings front. TravelCenters of America (TA), which released its results earlier this morning, is the pick of quarterly announcements.

ADTRAN (ADTN): Mizuho moves the communications equipment outfit to Neutral from Buy due to sluggish performance from the NSN (Nokia Siemens Networks) segment, among other issues. Its price objective, previously $26, is now $18.

AmerisourceBergen (ABC): The drug wholesaler gets downgraded to Neutral from Buy at UBS.

Aviva (AV): The life insurer, whose stock has been volatile lately, is lowered to Hold from Buy at Berenberg Bank.

Black Hills Corporation (BKH): Shares of the electric utility are reduced to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital.

Carnival Corporation (NYSE:CCL): The troubled cruise ship operator, fresh from tumbling 2% last week after reporting results, is now Neutral from Outperform at BNP Paribas. Accordingly, shares are sinking a further 3% ahead of the open.

CenterPoint Energy (CNP): Credit Suisse cuts the diversified utility to Underperform from Neutral.

Chesapeake Energy (CHK): The company, whose controversial CEO Aubrey McClendon exits on April 1, is cut to Trim from Hold at Tudor Pickering.

Cincinnati Financial (CINF): Keefe Bruyette cuts the company to Market Perform from Outperform.

Comerica (CMA): The stock is reduced to Underperform from Market Perform at Raymond James.

Commerzbank (PINK:CRZBY): The giant German financial firm is now Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse.

Healthsouth (HLS): Shares are taken to Neutral from Buy at UBS.

J.M. Smucker (SJM): Goldman Sachs downgrades the peanut butter powerhouse to Sell from Neutral.

Kimberly-Clark (KMB): The company is indeed crying into its Kleenex this morning, trading lower in the pre-market after getting slashed to Sell from Neutral at Goldman.

LATAM Airlines Group (LFL): UBS lowers the Santiago-based carrier to Sell from Neutral.

Micron (MU): The tech name is now Negative from Neutral at Susquehanna.

Mindray Medical (MR): MR is moved Neutral from Overweight at HSBC Securities.

Northern Tier Energy (NTI): Cowen & Company cuts the limited partnership to Hold From Buy.

Progressive (PGR): Not the first downgrade in recent days for the insurance outfit, today taken to Underweight from Equal Weight at Evercore.

Prudential Plc (PUK): The British based insurance outfit - not to be confused with America's Prudential Financial (PRU) - is now Neutral from Buy at UBS. Shares surged 14% last week and are due a breather, the broker believes.

Novo Nordisk (NVO): The pharmaceutical firm, famous for its diabetes franchise, is now Underweight from Neutral at JPMorgan Cazenove.

Teva Pharmaceuticals (TEVA): Shares get taken to Market Perform from Outperform with Wells Fargo.

(See also: New Stock Coverage: No Outpouring of Affection for Boise Cascade and Stock Upgrades: Otis Owner United Technologies Finds Love in an Elevator.)
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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